Set a Healthy Example For Your Kids, And They Will Follow

If I’ve learned anything over the past few months, it is this:  if you set an example by eating healthy, exercising, and taking care of yourself, your children will take notice and endeavor to do the same.

Let me rewind a bit.

Fitness

Eight months ago, I decided it was time to lose the post-baby weight.  I began running because it’s something that I’ve always enjoyed, it challenges me, and I am fortunate enough to have a BOB double jogger, so I can do it with two of three kids in tow.  Ivy was born in March 2014.  I started jogging again in August 2014.  By October 2014, I finished my first 10K race.  In November, I completed a second 10K race nearly four minutes faster than my October time.  In December 2014, I enrolled in a distance training program which would prepare me for longer runs.  I followed a schedule of 3-4 runs/week, including a speed/track workout on Wednesday evenings and a long weekend run with colleagues.  Despite 20-degree weather in February 2014, I completed another 10k race, adding two miles pre-race and three miles post-race to achieve an a 11-mile “training” run.  In March 2015, I completed a 15km (9.3 mile) race in the sleet.  Two weeks later, I finished the New York City Half Marathon in 2 hours and 4 minutes.  This was my second half-marathon and I finished it in six minutes less than my first half marathon that was in Sydney, Australia nearly nine years ago, pre-kids (who said motherhood didn’t make mothers faster and fitter)?  This month, I completed the Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossom 10-miler.  And now, I’m working on my spring/summer running schedule, hoping to complete another half and a handful of 5ks and 10ks before our move to Krakow, Poland in August.

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Beautiful day for a 10-miler. Added bonus: the cherry blossoms were out!

Ramping back up to a level of conditioning and endurance I’ve only mastered once previously has required dedication and time.  My kids watch as I lace up my shoes. They are thrilled each time I bring them post-race goodies.  They vie for spots in the double jogger.  I love that my routine to get back in shape has introduced the concept of running to them – that they understand it, they see that it is healthy, and that they want to do it with me.  Now that the winter weather is behind us, I’d like to do a 1km fun run with my four-year old, so that he can experience the same exhilaration I do when crossing a finish line.

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Ran the March 2015 NYC Half six minutes faster than my first half nine years ago, pre-kids

Food

Regaining my fitness after each pregnancy has been a bear, but I’ve always been motivated to do it because I enjoy working out.  The area where I require more of a push is nutrition.  And it’s taken 36 years, but I think I’ve finally started to figure it out.

Over the past month, I’ve joined one of my friends, who is also a fitness instructor and nutrition coach, in a clean eating challenge.  She provided us with clean eating recipes and suggestions, nutrition tips, and fitness challenges — as well as daily motivation and a system for accountability.  We took pictures of every meal and our workout and posted it to a private Facebook group describing what we ate and the 30+ minutes of exercise we did daily for 21 days.

This challenge changed my life (thank you Sarah Mann)!  The accountability factor really made me watch what I was eating.  Knowing that I would have to share with others what I had eaten at every meal made me put more thought into grocery shopping.  With the right groceries at hand, I was able to prep on Sundays for a whole week of healthy eating.  I figured out a system for myself that worked.  Shop Sundays, food prep Sundays, make it through to Wednesday before buying fresh fruit and vegetables again, and then finish out the week.  All you have to do is put effort into planning.  Plan ahead to assure you have the right type of food in your home; prep to make sure that food is washed and ready-to-go when you need to grab something in a flash (or make four lunches in record time when little ones — and mom — are hungry after a morning out at the playground).

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Accountability: breakfast, lunch, dinner and a post-run selfie

My breakfasts have become immeasurably healthier – nonfat greek yogurt with berries and agave, scrambled eggs with sauteed asparagus, mushrooms, and onions, quinoa and steel cut oats with banana, pumpkin pancakes (yum)!  Seriously.  I feel so much better about eating real food than stumbling out of bed at 5:30am with my one-year old and pouring a bowl of milk and cereal . . . because I hadn’t planned ahead of time.  My lunches have almost always become a salad with an added punch of protein, plus left over vegetables from the night before.  Think spinach salad with grilled chicken, avocado, and strawberries with a sweet potato on the side.  And dinner has become a lean meat – chicken, salmon, tilapia, lean beef – with plenty of colorful vegetables. When I feel a need for something sweet I indulge in a few squares of dark chocolate.  Snacks have also become much healthier – bell pepper strips with hummus, apple slices with almond butter, almonds and cashews, a protein bar.  Gone are the days of snacking on crackers and granola bars.  And to top it all off, I have been drinking a lot of water.  I start first thing in the morning before breakfast and continue through the day until after the kids are asleep.  I notice I’ve been much better about it since I bought a 32-ounce water bottle.

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Account for your choices by sharing them with friends

So how has my healthier eating influenced the kids?  For starters, they insist on eating greek yogurt with berries and agave with me instead of having the usual toast with jam or bowl of cereal.  They are enamored with agave – that it could taste as good as honey and that it is, in fact, healthier for you.  They have been introduced to quinoa and love it.  Every time I drink from my water bottle, they ask for water of their own.  They ask me questions about what is healthy and what is not.  Our outings are planned around healthier snacks – instead of chocolate-covered granola bars we have moved to nut and dried fruit mixes (thank you Trader Joes), Larabars, Chobani kids greek yogurt, and organic apple slices (thank you Costco).  Taking the time to prepare healthier meals for myself benefits the whole family.  When I make myself a salad for lunch, I make a second one for my husband.  When I prepare hard boiled eggs, bake sweet potatoes, and cut up vegetables, I make enough for the whole family.  If I eat healthy, they eat healthy (because you know I’m not fixing four other meals at each meal to cater to different tastes)!  It’s pretty simple.

I should caveat this by saying that my goal is to eat clean 80 percent of the time, which of course, leaves me the freedom to indulge as I please 20 percent of the time.  I think that is what makes the clean eating doable for me.  It is a lifestyle change which allows for some flexibility during the week, not a strict fad diet that I’m bound to give up on after two days.

I’m in love with our new healthy lifestyle.  I want it to stick.  And I want my kids to grow up happy, active, and healthy.  So here is what I’ve committed to – a new instagram account (@coveredground) that showcases my dedication to fitness, eating clean, and teaching healthy habits to my children.  It will appear in the sidebar of my blog, but you can follow us on this journey directly through instagram as well.  Through @coveredground, I hope not only to keep myself accountable, but to inspire others to find their passion for fitness and nutrition as well.

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Yesterday’s 3-mile jog to the library and back with the BOB doublejogger, 65 lbs of child, books, snacks, water, you name it!

Oh yeah – and I forgot to mention.  The running + the healthy eating over the past few weeks = pre-pregnancy weight.  Bam!

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